Wiring dimmer switch / bad breaker?


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Old 02-09-14, 09:38 PM
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Wiring dimmer switch / bad breaker?

I wired this dimmer switch (below) a couple years ago. Today, I turned on a vacuum on the same circuit, and it immediately shut off again, and the entire circuit is now down. Breaker seems to be fine, so I'm turning to my wiring:

Three black and three white wires come from the wall. All three white wires are connected to each other. Two of the blacks are connected to a black from the dimmer, and the third black to the other black from the dimmer. Green and ground connected. Is this correct? See attached photos.

Nothing on the circuit works. I toggled the breaker, to no avail. I used a multimeter connected to the hot wire leading into each breaker, and the neutral bar in the breaker box, and am getting a 120v reading on all of them. This seems to imply that the breaker is functioning properly (can someone confirm?). I also took apart the outlet in which my vacuum was inserted when this happened, but it looks to be wired correctly. Any other ideas?
 
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Old 02-09-14, 10:06 PM
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I am not sure what made you think the dimmer hand anything to do with the receptacle your vac was plugged into. I do hope the dimmer was not wired to a receptacle (code violation). You need to go to the receptacle and take a reading between the hot and neutral and hot and ground to see if you have 120V. You may have a bad neutral connection (usually caused by back-wired devices) and the surge from the vac motor was finally enough to open the circuit. If you get a reading from hot to ground and not hot to neutral, then your neutral is open somewhere on the circuit. You should not get a reading from the neutral to ground, if you do then you have an open neutral and are getting back-feed through lights (or loads) on that circuit. Turn off all the light switches on that circuit first and unplug any known loads.
 
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Old 02-09-14, 10:33 PM
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The only reason I thought the dimmer might be related to the circuit failure is that it is on the same circuit as the outlet that the vacuum was using.

I opened the outlet and took a reading between hot and neutral, with no results. Also no power from hot to ground. I do not have 120V at the receptacle. This would suggest that the breaker has failed, but my tests (earlier post) seem to rule that out. Thoughts?

Thank you for any help you can provide!
 
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Old 02-09-14, 10:46 PM
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Wiring

Many times the problem will not be at the receptacle you were plugged into but at one between there and the panel. Try going to a receptacle closer to the panel and see if you get any reading. Sometimes the problem will be at a receptacle that appears to be working and when you pull it out, the feed-thru to the next receptacle that is not working is where the problem is. You should be able to check without pulling the covers until you find one that reads hot to ground or hot to neutral.
 
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Old 02-09-14, 10:49 PM
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Edit: Is the picture your receptacle or switch. I thought it was the receptacle but more looking I see it isn't. Don't know why there is all that crap on the wire nut but if that is the switch we need to see the receptacle.
 
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Old 02-09-14, 11:09 PM
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Ray2047, here's a photo of the receptacle that the vacuum was plugged into. As you can see, it has only one black and white wire each.
 
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Old 02-09-14, 11:30 PM
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Bahtah, I had thought that the entire circuit was dead, but on your advice, I hunted down an outlet upstairs on the circuit, closer to the breaker, that still works. It appears to be the only receptacle on the circuit that still works. I'll take it apart to check for loose wires. Thank you!
 
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Old 02-09-14, 11:43 PM
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Wiring

I notice in your photo that the receptacle appears to have the wires stabbed into the back. When you check your receptacles that is where you will may find a loose or bad connection. At some point you should pig-tail the feed-through wires so that only two conductors go to the device and land on the screws, which will provide a better connection.

Mod note: No pigtailing needed in your case because only two wires but they should only be on the screws. Backstabs are a common point of failure.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 02-10-14 at 07:20 AM.
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Old 02-10-14, 09:09 PM
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Thank you so much! I took apart a few of the outlets near the problem area, and found a backstab connection in a nearby receptacle that had popped out. Refastening it fixed the problem.

Thanks again!
 
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Old 02-10-14, 10:16 PM
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Refastening it fixed the problem.
I hope you meant moved it to the screw and you moved any others you found to the screws or you will probably have more problems later.
 
 

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